Hailing from Modesto, California (a fine spot to buy a tractor), Grandaddy's excellent 1997 dÃ©but album, Under The Western Freeway, was that rarity, a record that gained a reputation largely through word of mouth. The musical vision of leader and songwriter, Jason Lytle, somehow combining the work of Neil Young, Brian Wilson and the dormant Pavement into a warm and instantly appealing hybrid, was quickly recognised and acclaimed. Also, the impressive facial foliage sported by several members of the band was commented on.
After touring extensively, little was heard of Grandaddy until the announcement of a new album, The Sophtware Slump, out next month. It's easily the equal of OK Computer, sharing similar themes of social dislocation and environmental decay, and tonight's show is eagerly awaited and sold out well in advance. Those who've held faith are rewarded. Older songs like "AM180", almost designed to delight small children with its addictive/annoying keyboard hook, "Summer Here, Kids" and "Everything Beautiful Is Far Away" now sound like classics, and are received as such, but the forthcoming single "The Crystal Lake", an ode to a lost rural innocence, the pointed, deliberately unwieldy "Broken Household Appliance National Forest" and the gorgeous "Hewlett's Daughter" are as good as any of their previous work.
As ever, Lytle, switching between keyboards and guitar and wearing a "Future Farmers" baseball cap, stoops like a former farmer (though his Michael Eavis-esque beard has been somewhat tamed) and the electronic equipment teeters on the verge of collapse, but the band provide a powerful counterpoint to the fragility of their frontman's material. Even on the evidence of this relatively rusty showing it's obvious that Grandaddy are likely to break through, much as the Flaming Lips did last year, and next month's tour has to be seen as essential viewing.